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30 years of the CISO role: How things have changed since Steve Katz

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The conversation around liability and regulatory changes in the cybersecurity world continues to be a hot topic among CISOs. Deaner acknowledges the concern within CISO circles, emphasizing the importance of taking these changes seriously as they are in place for a reason. The focus on more defined regulatory parameters could potentially be a valuable gift for CISOs, according to Nagler. She believes that these changes could drive more thoughtful action and responsible cybersecurity program development within organizations, giving CISOs the opportunity to evolve their role beyond just technology into a strategic partnership.

The statistics presented in the IANS/Artico study shed light on the current state of CISOs within organizations. Only 20% of CISOs are considered C-level executives, while just 50% engage with their board on a quarterly basis. Despite 85% of CISOs wanting clear guidance on risk tolerance from their board, only 36% actually receive it. Fitzgerald notes that many CISOs still report to the CIO or CTO, highlighting the need for more direct reporting to the CEO.

Looking ahead, the role of the CISO is expected to undergo a significant transformation in light of emerging cyber threats, rapid advancements in AI, and evolving legislative landscapes. Gartner’s Sam Oyaei proposes reframing the CISO position as a leader of shared risk management, rather than the sole defender against breaches. This shift would involve empowering business leaders to make informed decisions about information risk, ultimately changing the role of the CISO to focus on facilitating risk management across the organization.

Nagler encourages CISOs to recognize that they are not solely responsible for managing risk and enabling business growth. Instead, their role is to ensure the leadership team is equipped to balance these duties by providing insight, anticipating challenges, and understanding the direction of the industry. Fitzgerald advises current CISOs to prioritize strategy and governance, ensuring that security ownership is distributed throughout the organization and not solely focused on technical aspects.

Reflecting on the evolution of the CISO role, the first-ever CISO, Steve Katz, emphasized the importance of viewing information security as a business risk management issue. Katz’s philosophy underscores the critical need for CISOs to approach their roles from a strategic and holistic perspective, aligning cybersecurity efforts with overall business objectives.

In conclusion, CISOs are facing a pivotal moment in the cybersecurity landscape, with shifting regulatory environments, evolving threats, and changing expectations for the role. By embracing a new vision for the CISO position and focusing on strategic leadership and governance, CISOs can navigate the complexities of today’s cybersecurity challenges and drive meaningful impact within their organizations.

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